Home Is Where The Art Is

Every weekend in May dozens of people clutching matching maps will be pounding the pavements of Brighton and beyond, on the trail of artistic treasure in this year’s Artist’s Open Houses.

The foundations of the Artist’s Open Houses (AOH) were laid in 1982 when Fiveways artist, Ned Hoskins, invited the public into his home to view his own work and that of a group of friends. Other artists in the area followed suit to form the Fiveways Artists Group. The idea proved popular with visitors to Brighton and soon more trails sprang up around the city. The Open Houses became a regular feature in the Brighton Fringe and in 2004 the Artist’s Open Houses was set up uniting the hitherto 13 disparate trails.

Today, the AOH is an important festival in its own right, attracting hundreds of visitors who enjoy this inventive, creative and engaging way to appreciate local art. This year, the 14 trails lead to 196 spaces where visitors can view, buy or sample the work of over 1200 of the city’s resident artists. As well as private homes, these spaces include churches, studios, cafes, a hotel and even a former cinema and a public toilet! By inviting art lovers into their homes, artists give their visitors a more personal and unique experience than they would normally get in a shop or gallery – often with a cup of tea and a slice of cake thrown in for good measure.

One artist who is opening his home this year is Lee Needham. A Brighton resident for over 20 years and a regular visitor to the AOH Lee says:

“I have always enjoyed these experiences, especially on a sunny afternoon; wandering the streets of my adoptive city with a scrumpled up brochure and barely legible map, trying to work out the street’s location then eagerly seeking the iconic banners with which to pinpoint the house. Inevitably, what awaited me was a warm welcome into a home where, more often than not, I have discovered some great art and craft. It really was like finding gold in a treasure hunt,”

Lee left his career in digital media four years ago and began painting full time (examples of Lee’s work below). He has sold some work in group shows but this year he decided to open up his house (and studio) for the first time.



“I considered doing this as a solo exhibitor, but my experiences of group shows led me to believe that the more practical and fun option would involve other artists. I am fortunate that, during my two decades in the city, I have met and befriended several other artists, of all kinds.  It was therefore a relatively simple task to contact and organise my hugely talented artist friends. I am proud to announce that the result is an eclectic and vibrant display of paintings, illustrations, photographs and fabrics etc in my home, under the banner of the Windmill Collective.”



Among the 9 artists exhibiting at 53 Windmill Street (house no 4) on the Hanover trail, is Sophie Wake. Sophie graduated with a degree in Illustration from Brighton University in 1996 and has since worked for clients in advertising, editorial and publishing, from Hyundai and Marks & Spencer to regular commissions for The Saturday Guardian and BBC publications as well as collaborative animation projects for Telecom and Heathrow Terminal 5. Sophie is currently enjoying break from the hectic busy whirl of tight deadlines and is joyously painting for her own pleasure. Her animal portraits are proving very popular with visitors to the Windmill.

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Sophie says:

“I loved working on the paintings for the collection and its been great getting together with my artist friend Lee needham-Park, whose gorgeous house we are exhibiting in. The private view was brilliant fun and to top it all I have sold far more prints than I had expected and an oil on canvas too! Plus lots of greetings cards I had made to support the work for this collection, and finally meeting many interesting people along the way…so I would say, so far so very good indeed!”

Jessica Christie-Miller is another Open-Houser who has chosen to welcome the public into the 7-Dials home she shares with her husband, 3 children and dog. Jessica, who has a background in retail display, prop making for window design and fashion styling, says:

“I was having a chat with a friend Rosie Gifford, married to artist Andrew Gifford and we got talking about how we are both very creative people but didn’t feel we had a proper platform to show our work. I had recently completed an upholstery course and had started to make memo boards for friends and she was doing an art class specialising in portraits. Because we live in Brighton setting up our AOH was relatively straight forward, once we decided to go for it. The Brighton AOH has a fantastic website that makes you feel welcome and encourages you to take the first steps…..”


Jessica started by exhibiting their art in the ‘Snug’ – a small room off her kitchen, but soon realised that it would take more than one room to show all of the work, so she dedicated the whole of the downstairs to art and jewellery and crafts – and the garden for selling plants.


Jessica says: “It’s been a real success and it has given me and my friends a real boost. I am now moving on to the next level with more established artists – I can’t say it hasn’t come with out its trials and tribulations, the dog can can be a challenge at times, but we love receiving guests into the house and get to meet some really interesting people.”

The Preston Park Recovery Centre, a beautiful Victorian villa overlooking Preston Park, is taking part in AOH for the second year running. Over 50 clients of Southdown’s Mental Health Recovery Centre are exhibiting over 120 pieces of art art that includes paintings, film, photography, and sculpture.


124 Bridget Cotter and Out of Suffocation Work crop

Beth Shepherd, Southdown’s Recovery Pathway Manager at the Centre, said, “One of the reasons why it’s really important for us to be involved in the festival is because it helps demystify what a mental health recovery centre is. People can come and see for themselves what it’s like; a friendly, safe space open for anyone that needs support.”



109 Zorenah Chapman and Judy Stevens Crop

Lynne Thomas, Manager of Southdown’s Mental Health Recovery Services at Southdown added, “We get people through the door who would never usually come to a mental health recovery centre. They have then shared experiences of mental health challenges in their own family.”

A unique house to visit is Richard Zinzan’s ARCH angels Art House, an Eco renovation house with its own installation room. Richard, Director of ARCH-angels Architects, says:

“Opening up your house for the festival is a wonderful experience. It gives you an unique opportunity to meet so many interesting people you would not normally cross paths with. The installation was initially thought up to create a 3d interior in a room but we have seen it develop into more of a personal expression and we are really enjoying the direction it has taken. We still have three more weekends so please do come down and add to the developing live art work of “Don’t stand behind the line” installation.”


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Another highlight of this year’s AOH is The Ceramic House, a showcase of architectural ceramics in the home of Kay Aplin. Kay says:

“After 20 years of creating public art commissions usually in far-away places, it gave me the opportunity to show my work in context, rather than direct people to images on a website. Since opening for the first time in 2011, my focus as an artist has grown and evolved. By default I became a curator, and my experience and skill in this area grows year on year. Once a year, I curate themed exhibitions with leading ceramists and the reputation of The Ceramic House is ever-expanding. I have received critical acclaim in national magazines and have the opportunity to work with world-class artists and in 2013 we were awarded Best Artists Open House.”

Ceramic Garden terraces

The latest development has been to convert the garage into a mini white cube gallery, In Camera. This year, The Ceramic House presents Landscape : Islands, an exploration in ceramics and sound. Landscape : Islands brings together a group of international, renowned ceramic artists who live on or come from islands, and their work responds to the landscape around them. During May, Joseph Young, in partnership with Aural Detritus, has curated a programme of intimate sound art performances at In Camera.


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Evolution Arts offers a range of exciting creative courses and workshops where you can make art whilst having fun and meeting new people. This time next year you could even be exhibiting some of it in your own home!


Brighton’s Festival Frenzy

The brochures are out, posters are popping up in windows and doorways around town, and a fizz of excitement is brewing in Brighton’s artsy air. From the 6th May until 5th June the Brighton Festival and the Brighton Fringe will send the city into a creative crescendo for the 50th consecutive year.

 Stepping up to the helm as this year’s Guest Director is one of America’s most daring creative pioneers Laurie Anderson (below).

laurie anderson

Writer, director, visual artist and vocalist renowned for her inventive use of technology, the strings of Anderson’s creative bow stretch from the world of art, to theatre and experimental music. Her many accolades include the 1981 hit O Superman, her appointment as NASA’s first artist-in-residence, and most recently the feature film in – Heart of a Dog – which reflects on the deaths of her husband Lou Reed, her mother, her beloved dog, and such diverse subjects as family memories, surveillance and Buddhist teachings.

 As always, Festival highlights come to us courtesy of eminent local and international companies, including Spymonkies’ The Complete Deaths (below), and Blast Theory’s and Hydrocrackers joint venture Operation Black Antler. Multi-award winning Czech company Ver-te-dance bring us their truly elevating piece of dance theatre Corrections, whilst the Akrham Dance Lions will set the Dome alight with their arresting new, full-length production Until the Lions.

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 But what really makes the month of May so special and exciting are the offerings from the lesser known performers and companies that make up the Brighton Fringe . This year there are over 900 events, spanning the sublime and charming to the ridiculous and outrageous.

Several of Evolution Arts’ creative sparklers will be adding their mark to this year’s Fringe. Our wonderful dance tutor, Rosaria Gracia (Dancing For Health & Bollywood Dance) will be gracing the streets with the dance troupe Maracatu Cruzeiro do Sul, who will be performing an exciting new show entitled Brazil: Encounter of Cultures.

Cast Iron Theatre’s A Year Without Summer is written and directed by Andrew Allen who is running his first workshop at Evolution Arts, Love The One You’re (Acting) With on 24th July.

year without summer

Evolution Arts tutor Jonathan Brown (Dig Deep – Unearthing The Actor In You, starting Saturday 18th June) is premiering his new play A Good Jew and co-directing Sarah Charsley in her solo show Ghost Sex. Sarah, who co-man’s Evolution Arts’ busy office two days a week, is also appearing in Rantomime with fellow comedian Andy Thomas.

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Evolution tutor Bern O’ Donoghue’s (Learning To Draw starting Friday 29 April), socially engaged work is among that being featured in the Brighton Open House exhibition entitled Displacement. 

If you are a budding musician, actor or artist, or if you fancy getting creative in some shape or form, whilst having fun and meeting new people along the way, Evolution Arts has an exciting range of courses and workshops on offer.

Drawn To The Page

When she’s not busy delivering sessions in creative mindfulness and creative writing here at Evolution Arts, writer, artist and experienced arts educator Wendy Ann Greenhalgh is being ‘Drawn to the Page’ in art galleries across the South East.

Drawn to the Page is a creative partnership between New Writing South, De La Warr Pavilion, Jerwood Gallery and Towner Art Gallery and Wendy Ann Greenhalgh. The project, which is funded for 2 years by Arts Council England, allows literature and the visual arts to collide in the form of a series of monthly writing workshops in the three partnering galleries.

Each session begins with a ‘first look’ where participants can wander around the gallery at their leisure, under the guidance of Wendy Ann. This ‘first look’ gives participants the chance to enjoy, explore and examine the exhibitions whilst jotting down their own responses to the art.




As one regular to Drawn To The Page writer, Helen, shared, one of the things she values about these sessions is that chance to develop her own responses to the works on display, even though she doesn’t feel she knows much about art in any official way.


Afterwards writers are invited to share their thoughts about the art in a group discussion. The second part of the session takes the form of a creative writing workshop facilitated by Wendy Ann who has worked on previous creative writing and arts projects with the galleries and who is part of the Creative Learning Team at New Writing South. As well as creative writing exercises, writers have the chance to read out their work and, following the session, are invited to publish it on the Drawn to the Page Blog. Some writers have had their first ever publication this way. Anyone who does publish  is offered free membership of NWS too!

Drawn To The Page writer Marian says:

“My favourite thing about these sessions, is that it makes me take time to examine, enjoy and study art work I might not have looked at. It has helped my development as a writer, because it has affirmed what I find easy but coerced me to write with a more challenging, different technique. I have developed a piece based on a portrait I studied at the Jerwood gallery, which I hope to evolve and which was published on the Drawn To The Page blog. I probably would not have visited the Jerwood and Towner galleries without this incentive.”


With three art galleries to choose from, writers can enjoy a different exhibition, new artists and a variety of mediums on a regular basis, from painting and drawing to photography and installation art – there’s something for all artistic tastes and, what’s more, no prior art knowledge is needed. And with a new selection of creative writing exercises each month, you’ll never write the same thing twice.

The next session is at the Melanie Manchot exhibition at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne on Saturday April 23rd 2-5pm. Details on the exhibition here (it opens on the 16th):

The half-day workshops are open to all writers – whatever your level of experience and cost £30 – which includes entrance to all exhibitions. Or attend 2 or more sessions in a season with a discount of £25 per ticket – to take advantage of this click here.

You can listen in on a session and discover what it’s like by listening to Drawn to the Page’s appearance on the Radio 4 Open Book programme.

You can book on to Wendy Ann’s next creative writing session at Evolution Arts ‘Myths and Fairy Tales’, by clicking here.

Evolution Arts has an exciting selection of other writing and art courses and workshops coming up soon including: Watercolour Painting, Successful Short Stories, Painting with Acrylics, Collage & Mixed Media, Drawing Stories, Abstract Photography and Collective Writing.

And Now For Some Good News



Great News – Evolution Arts‘ website is back up and running. We’re very sorry for the technical problems we’ve been experiencing recently.

If you still see the screen with a message about a new website then you need to clear your cache. How do you do that?? We’re always happy to help so here’s a useful article that we found via a web search.

To thank you for your patience and understanding, here’s a preview of our exciting new Spring & Summer 2016 brochure, which is due to hit the shelves next week. You’ll find an even bigger selection of  courses, workshops and drop-ins to choose from than usual – so sit back and enjoy the read.



(Brighton &) Hove Grown Festival


Over the last few months, the creative community in Brighton & Hove has been sowing the seeds of a brand new mulit-arts festival.

From 18th – 27th March you can reap the rewards of their creative labours as  (Brighton &) Hove Grown bursts to life, showcasing the best in Brighton & Hove’s creative community in three venues across the city.

(Brighton &) Hove Grown is a celebration of new writing, consisting of 29 shows and workshops covering comedy, impro, spoken word and theatre.


The festival grew from a cross-polination of ideas between Guy Wah, founder of ZLS TheatreBrighton’s only social enterprise theatre company, and Sweet Venues, which manages the award-winning Duxebox Theatre.

In autumn last year Guy had the eureka moment of bringing together the best local writers and performers through a new affordable festival. At the same time Sarah Johnson, assistant venue manager for Sweet Venues, was looking at ways of increasing the awareness of venues in the Western Road area of Hove. Guy says:

“We wanted an affordable festival that draws attention to the huge variety of fantastic new writing and performance in Brighton and Hove and more importantly we wanted to give these new works an opportunity to be performed.We’re thrilled to have so much support in our first year, particularly from Brighton Fringe, as we always set out to be a forerunner for local writing and performance leading up to the fantastic line-ups at The Fringe and other festivals.”

The festival aims to shine a spotlight on some of the brilliant venues in Hove ahead of their participation in Brighton Fringe in Mays. Sarah Johnson, assistant venue manager for Sweet Venues, says:

“We hope by being loud and proud about our love for Hove, we will raise awareness of the hub of creative activity that has developed in the Western Road area and in time we believe this will drive new footfall and spending to the venues and surrounding local businesses.”

The performances in this year’s festival, which all cost £10 or less (some only £3!), will be taking place in the Brunswick, the intimate Dukebox Theatre and the cool and quirky Artista Studio. The shows, many of which are being performed for the first time, will showcase the talent of some of Brighton & Hove’s freshest and most fertile creative seeds.

Comedy includes Funny Women Awards Finalist Jane Postlethwaite’s special edition of her character comedy Made In Cumbria’, Banana Skits standup comedy evenings and Ant McEwan’s The Man Who Looks Like Goat, a self-deprecating account of his mad-capped life so far.

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If theatre is more up your artistic street, don’t miss the multisensory, multi-media theatrical extravaganza Insomnia (featured photo), the Semi Narrative Musical Theatrical performance Television Terrorists (below) or Cast Iron Theatre’s seventh showcase of brand new plays from local writers.


As well as many exciting improv and spoken word events there will also be a variety of workshops with a tailored section for educational family-friendly shows.

Tonight sees the festival’s launch party at The DukeBox in celebration of its first year.

If you fancy taking part in (Brighton &) Hove Grown’s future festivals – they have committed to presenting this festival for the next three years – Evolution Arts‘ writing, drama and improv courses and workshops can help bring your creative ideas to fruition.